Are Dutch Skylarks partial migrants? Ring recovery data and radio-telemetry suggest local coexistence of contrasting migration strategies

Arne Hegemann, Henk P. van der Jeugd, Merlijn de Graaf, Lotte L. Oostebrink, B. Irene Tieleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, Skylarks Alauda arvensis have undergone dramatic population declines in many European countries. Evidence exists for deteriorating conditions during the breeding season, but little is known about the situation during the rest of the annual cycle. Here we use two approaches to test if the Dutch breeding population of Skylarks consists of resident and/or migratory individuals. First, we present an analysis of ring recoveries from the Dutch Ringing Centre "Vogeltrekstation". Out of 25 recoveries, 12 Skylarks were resident in winter, 10 migrated and three were classified as probable migrants. Resident birds were accompanied during winter by birds from northern and eastern Europe. Very limited natal and breeding dispersal recorded in the same dataset suggests that our results were not influenced by long dispersal distances. Next, we compared these results to a local radio-telemetry study in the northern Netherlands. During two different years we equipped a total of 27 Skylarks from a breeding population with radio-transmitters and followed them during the subsequent winter. Four birds were found to winter locally. Out of 23 individuals that we did not find in winter, 14 returned in the following breeding season to the study area, all with a working transmitter, suggesting that they wintered outside our study area. Two ring recoveries of birds from the same study population indeed showed migration to south-west Europe. Based on these two lines of evidence, we conclude local coexistence of a resident and a migrant strategy in Dutch Skylarks. The findings of our study are important for the planning of conservation efforts, as we can only protect this rapidly declining species when we know their behaviour and whereabouts throughout the entire annual cycle.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-143
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Biological Sciences

Free keywords

  • wintering
  • partial migration
  • ringing
  • The Netherlands
  • conservation
  • dispersal
  • radio-telemetry


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